John Bowker was Pablo Sandoval before Pablo Sandoval was Pablo Sandoval. That is, Bowker was once the great organizational hope -- a random, almost forgotten semi-prospect who made us think for a second that the Giants were going to actually develop an honest-to-goodness hitter out of nowhere. Then Bowker had -2 hits in the second half, and he looked even worse than that reads. It wasn't right to give up on the guy for good, but you could forgive the discriminating fan for forgetting about Bowker in the short-term. Go back to Fresno, the refrain went, and try to learn some plate discipline.
|2009 - John Bowker (AAA)||79||284||63||98||18||3||17||63||53||52||10||5||.345||.446||.609|
Wait, that suggestion isn't supposed to work. Hoping a known hacker can just magically learn some plate discipline? That's like sending kids on a snipe hunt to get them out of your hair; you don't expect them to come back with a bag full of snipe jerky. But the plate discipline is exactly what makes Bowker's renaissance so danged captivating. It isn't as if Bowker's hitting .300/.320/.550 with a bunch of park-aided homers and a 100/20 K/BB ratio. Everything about his game has improved, and there isn't a glaring statistical weakness. Bowker's BABIP isn't so out of line with his career that we have to worry about serious regression.
Todd Linden comparisons? Get outta here. I know we've been burned before, but that's an imperfect comparison. Linden did Linden things, just more of them. It was a fine season, of course, but it was what a fluky peak season from Todd Linden should have looked like. Bowker's success is wholly tied to his new, patient approach. He's already blown by his career high in walks. If the theory is "see more pitches, get better pitches to hit", Bowker is a fantastic data point.
The move seems timed to give the Giants an extended look at Bowker before the trade deadline. Use Winn to give Rowand a couple of days off here and there, and continue to find at-bats for Schierholtz, but Bowker has to start a majority of the games. At whose expense, though?
- Randy Winn isn't hitting well, but he has the track record. He was a really, really valuable player as recently as last year.
- Nate Schierholtz is young and quasi-promising, even if he could go into an extended hack-a-funk at any time. There doesn't seem to be a drop at all between Winn's defense and Schierholtz's.
- Fred Lewis's month-long slump put him in the organizational glass case, which seems harsh, but it was the wrong slump in the wrong organization (an organization with two other left-handed, young outfielders and a veteran love that keeps Randy Winn-related optimism high)
Who gets fewer at-bats to make room for Bowker? It doesn't matter. The Giants are continually linked to Jermaine Dye and Matt Holliday, and while the merits of such a deal are best left for another day, you can kinda sorta see the point. The lineup sure would look a lot purtier with Dye or Holliday in the middle. The lineup might not be much more effective, mind you, and the defensive hits might mitigate the offensive gains, but it would sure be purtier. If Bowker comes up and hits well, there's even less sense in trading prospects and taking on salary for an outfielder.
We know what a productive Winn looks like. We know what a productive Schierholtz looks like. When they're going right, they're nothing to sneeze at. But we don't know what the new, improved, John Bowker looks like. He looks like he could be the difference-maker in the lineup now that he's snorted the cremated remains of Brian Giles. Give Bowker as many starts in the next three weeks as possible. It's a ticket to small sample size theatre, sure, but it's the best way for the Giants to avoid giving up a piece of the future for an overpaid outfielder when they should be giving up a piece of the future for an overpaid infielder.
Whatchyou going to do, when Bowkermania runs wild on you?